In addition to the legal responsibilities on management, there are many specifi c responsibilities imposed by each organization’s health and safety policy. The responsibilities cover directors, senior managers, site managers, department managers, supervisors and employees.

Many organizations will not fi t this exact structure but most will have those who direct, those who manage or supervise and those who have no line responsibility but have responsibilities to themselves and fellow workers. Because of the special role and importance of directors, these are covered here in detail.

Directors’ responsibilities
The Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission said at the launch of the guidance on Directors’ responsibilities:

Health and safety is a boardroom issue.

Good health and safety refl ects strong leadership from the top and that is what we want to see. The company whose chairperson or chief executive is the champion of health and safety sends the kind of message which delivers good performance on the ground.

Those who are at the top have a key role to play, which is why boards are being asked to nominate one of their members to be a ‘health and safety’ director. But appointing a health and safety director or department does not absolve the Board from its collective responsibility to lead and oversee health and safety management.

Directors’ Responsibility for Health & Safety INDG 343, sets out the following action points for directors:

➤ the Board needs to accept formally and publicly its collective role in providing health and safety leadership in its organization
➤ each member of the Board needs to accept their individual role in providing health and safety leadership for their organization
➤ the Board needs to ensure that all board decisions reflect its health and safety intentions, as articulated in the health and safety policy statement. It is important for boards to remember that, although health and safety functions can (and should) be delegated, legal responsibility for health and safety rests with the employer
➤ the Board needs to recognize its role in engaging the active participation of workers in improving health and safety
➤ the Board needs to ensure that it is kept informed of, and alert to, relevant health and safety risk management issues. The Health and Safety Commission recommends that boards appoint one of their number to be the ‘Health and Safety Director’.

Directors need to ensure that the Board’s health and safety responsibilities are properly discharged. The Board will need to:

➤ carry out an annual review of health and safety performance
➤ keep the health and safety policy statement up to date with current board priorities and review the policy at least every year
➤ ensure that there are effective management systems for monitoring and reporting on the organization’s health and safety performance
➤ ensure that any signifi cant health and safety failures and their investigation are communicated to board members
➤ ensure that when decisions are made the health and safety implications are fully considered

➤ ensure that regular audits are carried out to check that effective health and safety risk management systems are in place.

By appointing a ‘Health and Safety Director’ there will be a board member who can ensure that these health and safety risk management issues are properly addressed, both by the Board and more widely throughout the organization.

The Chairman and/or Chief Executive have a critical role to play in ensuring risks are properly managed and that the Health and Safety Director has the necessary competence, resources and support of other board members to carry out their functions.

Indeed, some boards may prefer to see all the health and safety functions assigned to their Chairman and/or Chief Executive. As long as there is clarity about the health and safety responsibilities and functions, and the Board properly addresses the issues, this is acceptable.

The health and safety responsibilities of all board members should be clearly articulated in the organization’s statement of health and safety policy and arrangements. It is important that the role of the Health and Safety Director should not detract either from the responsibilities of other directors for specifi c areas of health and safety risk management or from the health and safety responsibilities of the Board as a whole.

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